Our 1st Murderess, Madeleine Smith
Madeleine's story feels like finding a long lost bundle of love letters tied in red ribbon. Dripping with passion and poison. It's a modern story of revenge porn and retribution that took place in 1857.
Madeleine was just 22 when her privileged life fell apart. It began when her neighbor Miss Mary Perry casually introduced her to the dashing Emile L'Angelier. The couple soon began to meet in secret, and they wrote passionate and candid letters to each other throughout the course of their affair.
The time came for Madeleine to marry well, as she had been raised to do. When she became engaged to the wealthy William Minnoch, she wrote to Emile, imploring him "I trust your honor as a gentleman that you will not reveal anything that may have passed between us." And she asked him to return her letters to her. He replied, implying that he would expose her letters and disgrace her if she did not marry him. Madeleine begged him to do no such thing, well aware that the things she had written had the power to destroy her reputation and future. She asked Emile to come and meet with her before doing anything rash.
After his visit to her in Glasgow, Emile said to Miss Perry: "I can't think why I was so unwell after getting that coffee from her … If she were to poison me, I would forgive her." He confided to more friends that he feared he had been poisoned, and after suffering three more bouts of illness, he died in March1857. A post-mortem showed an enormous amount of arsenic in his stomach, and when the police found Madeleine's letters, she was arrested and charged.
Madeleine was freed with a verdict of 'Not Proven', though the scandal followed her throughout her life.
There are some who say that Emile poisoned himself, willing to die in order to shame Madeleine for snubbing him.